Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Fatal facts (OSHA via Internet Archive)

Fatal facts (OSHA via Internet Archive) – http://web.archive.org/web/20120317113823/http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/toc_FatalFacts.html

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are some plausible industrial accidents involving falls?
  • How can people be electrocuted on the job?
  • How can machinery kill people?

Description:

Former Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) irregular newsletter now available through the Internet Archive. Also available in paper at many Federal Depository Libraries.

Every issue described a fatal accident whose legal issues have been resolved. Each newsletter has the following sections:

  • Accident Summary – Includes a sketch of the accident along with the accident type, weather conditions, employee job title, age & sex, experience at this type of work and time on project.
  • Brief Description of Accident – Usually a paragraph or so.
  • Inspection Results
  • Accident Prevention Recommendations
  • Sources of Help – includes links to regulations and training materials

Although the descriptions may only be a paragraph, they can still be fairly chilling as this description from “Fatal Facts #61” shows:

An employee was working in a trench 4 feet wide and 7 feet deep. About 30 feet away a backhoe was straddling the trench when the backhoe operator noticed a large chunk of dirt falling from the side wall behind the worker in the trench, he called out a warning. Before the worker could climb out, 6 to 8 feet of the trench wall had collapsed on him and covered his body up to his neck. He suffocated before the backhoe operator could dig him out.

There were no exit ladders. No sloping, shoring or other protective system had been used in the trench.

Might be inspirational for scenes or as backstory for characters who are safety activists. Browsing the newsletters would also be useful in answering questions like “Would it be plausible if …”

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